On Monday, February 24, 2010, a 12,000 pound orca whale, Tilikum, attacked his trainer, Dawn Branchau, causing her to drown in front of a live audience at Sea World in Orlando, Florida. This was Tilikum’s third time being involved in a death. WHY WAS THIS MAMMAL STILL PERFORMING? Experts have posed asked if it was human error or whether a killer whale could choose to kill? Pretty eerie to think about yourself, isn’t it?
On August 23, 2011, the OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) issued citations to Sea World for placing profit above employee safety. OSHA fined Sea World $75,000 for safety violations including a maximum of $70,000 in penalty for “willful” act of knowingly placing its employees at risk. Following these citations, the family of Dawn Branchau; terminated employees; and witnesses also filed legal action.
The most crucial evidence presented was the fact that other trainers have been killed and injured prior to Dawn’s tragic death. This tragedy could have – and should have – been prevented!!! What insurance company would want to insure Sea World against the next unfortunate disaster? When will the next tragedy occur? All this negative publicity is very damaging to Sea World. OSHA accused Sea World of showing indifference or disregard to employee’s safety after a whale killed Dawn Branchau in Orlando last year. OSHA contends that Sea World did not properly document all the incidents of aggression shown by it’s whales. Two of the other trainers who testified have requested to stop working with whales and were transferred to the park’s otter show. I bet they’re glad they will no longer have a “whale” of a time!
The debate is ongoing regarding use of these 12,000 pound, highly-intelligent, highly-social beings, and keeping them in captivity strictly for entertainment and money-making purposes. Since this tragic accident, several former Sea World employees have come forward speaking about working with orcas and the secrecy within the mammal entertainment business. In the past year since this tragedy, Tilikum has been kept in isoloation, which may directly affect his well-being.
Orca project director Colleen Gorman started a petition on Change.org for Sea World to stop pressuring OSHA to have closed hearings. Judge Welsh decided not to show and sensationalize Branchau’s death, in accordance with her families desires. Dolphin activists urged the Department of Labor to keep the trial open not only to ensure justice for Dawn Branchau, but also to expose the reality of conditions in Sea World. More than 3,300 Change.org members joined the protest against closed hearings. Sea World’s order was NOT granted.
How many more deaths will it take before SeaWorld realizes that these beautiful, enormous mammals do not enjoy being confined to a swimming pool? Considering the fact that there were three (3) prior deaths in which Tilikum was involved PRIOR to Dawn’s death, why was Tilikum allowed the opportunity to take another life?
We’d love to hear your thoughts. Do you think Tilikum should be kept in confinement? Should it be put down? Released back into the ocean? Leave comments on this blogpost, or our Facebook and Twitter pages. Feel free to stop by our website or contact one of our attorneys at 1-800-246-4878.